‘Developments and advances in life science and associated technologies could pose risks caused by accidents during experiments, inadvertent and deliberate misuse.’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued what it says is the first global, technical and normative framework for the development of national frameworks and approaches for mitigating biorisks and governing research in the area of the life sciences.
The Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences is aimed at safely unlocking the ‘great promise for new ways to improve global health offered by life sciences and related technologies,’ the WHO said.
The life sciences are increasingly crossing over with other fields, such as chemistry, AI and nanotechnology, which changes the landscape of risks, the WHO says. The Framework is said to address how to manage governance and oversight to both accelerate and spread innovation, while mitigating negative impacts. The Framework is also designed to be adapted by Member States and other stakeholders, depending on their needs and perspectives.
‘Life sciences and technologies offer many opportunities to improve our health, our societies and our environment. However developments and advances in life science and associated technologies could pose risks caused by accidents during experiments, inadvertent and deliberate misuse,’ said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist.
The WHO has said that the Framework is intended as a ‘starting point’ for the development and strengthening of biorisk management, and relies on three core pillars: biosafety, laboratory biosecurity and the oversight of dual-use research. Activities by the WHO to support the Framework’s implementation include: Leveraging existing efforts and initiatives, maintaining stakeholders and ‘local champions’ to monitor and evaluate measures developed and implemented at national and local level, and conducting awareness raising activities.
The WHO added that while the governance of biorisks could not be the sole responsibility of one international body, it aimed to harness the developments in the life sciences to improve global health, while anticipating and mitigating risks posed by such development.